July 2008

North to South Tour - Day 23

07/17/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Sula, Montana
To: Jackson, Montana
Today: 60 miles - 1254 miles total

We had breakfast at the campground cafe in Sula. IT WAS GREAT. The Rear Admiral had her Lumberjack special, and I had the pancakes with peanut butter. It was going to be a climbing day, so we stuffed ourselves...and the cook made sure we were well fed. The 12 mile climb up Lost Trail Pass was a steady climb, but not bad. We didn't stop until the top (border of Idaho and Montana), there is very nice rest stop. It was a beautiful climb, and the traffic on 93 was very light.

We then turned east on Rte 43 (another very quiet road) to cycle over Chief Joseph Pass, and within a mile and a half we were up and over. By going over Chief Joseph Pass, we crossed the continental divide again (our fourth on this trip). We then went down into Big Hole Valley, it was not a very steep down. About 10 miles from Wisdom Montana, the Rear Admiral DEMANDED something to eat, so we pulled into the Big Hole Battlefield National Monument. Oranges and an energy bar seem to do the trick. We took very little interest in the Battlefield, where in 1877 our army waged war on the Nez Perce indians. Why we honor something like this, I have no idea. Basically you look out into a acres of sage bush, valleys and mountains and just feel sad.

Imagine being in Milford and being able to see Manchester (or any other two places 20 miles apart)? As SeeMore crossed the 20 mile width of the Big Hole Valley (from west to east) you could see the other end. We also traveled through 3 different habitats. We started off in the pine forest, then sage bush and pronghorn antelopes, and finally in cattle and hay ranches. On the East side (and at the end of Rte 43 for us) is Wisdom. We had lunch at the Big Hole Restaurant; since we were in beef country the Rear Admiral had a cheeseburger, and I had Rocky Mountain Oysters.

We then headed south on Rte 278 through 15 miles of assassin mosquitos. Some how those Milk River Montana mosquitos moved from 2006 trip to this stretch of Montana. These little buggers wait until SeeMore is climbing a small butte, and attack with force. As long as you are going about 15 mph, no problems. But as you can imagine....SeeMore is no Tour de France participant. We finally got off SeeMore and sprayed each other with bug spray.

Tonight we are in Jackson (population 38), at the Hot Springs Resort. We are living semi large at the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge and Resort? where Mary opted for the trailer rooms. Yes you got it ,we are in this modular affair with dark panelling and decor from the 70's. It's pretty clean, only a little sketchy, possibly one of those nights where we should have opted for the tent? We have enjoyed the hot springs, an ice cream cone from across the street and nice hot showers. We are staying in Jackson setting up for tomorrow morning's climb, which will be two passes, Big Hole Pass (7360 ft.) and Badger Pass (6760 ft.). How bad can a mountain pass named Badger be?

North to South Tour - Day 22

07/16/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Lolo, Montana
To: Sula, Montana
Today: 75 miles - 1194 miles total

Today we spent cycling the Bitteroot Valley, between the Bitteroot Mountains to our west and the Sapphire Mountains to our east. It was another great day. Even though we spent the majority of today's travels on Rte 93, it had wide shoulders which let us not concentrate on the traffic. The farther we got away from Missoula, the less traffic.

The Bitteroot Valley is a south-north valley, made from an old lake that makes this land very fertile. The Bitterroot Mountains had snow dotted peaks, while the Sapphire Mountains were covered with trees. The valley was full of ranches and log cabin retreats. There was a number of log home manufacturers along the route (see above photo). Our first 16 miles was on bicycle path, that ran along Rte 93. We cycled into Florence and had Breakfast at Bud's cafe and casino. Bud and his wife came from southern California last year, and are very happy in Florence. After breakfast, the bicycle path ends in Stevensville...where you join 3 miles of road construction. Not bad, because the speed limit is 25 mph.

We cycled into and around Victor, where the Rear Admiral mailed some stuff home (good less weight!). We then cycled around Hamilton (population 4,000 with FOUR grocery stores). Had a picnic lunch at the McDonalds in Hamilton (orange, sandwiches, gatorade, and cowboy cookies). After lunch we continued pedaling through Darby. All day...the further we cycled, the better the day got. Out side of Sula, we saw deer, eagles, and bighorn sheep. There is also evidence of a large forest fire some years ago? , as you pedal towards Sula.

We are on a portion of the Transamerica Rte (Adventure Cycling Rte) which connects the two Great Parks section together. The Transamerica is the original route that Adventure Cycling designed. Other routes (Great Divide, Lewis and Clark) also share this section, so you see lots of cyclists.

Tonight we are in Sula, with The Prince of Wales II set up near the Bitteroot river. Two tent sites over is Lavern. We thought he would be long gone when we last spotted him in Columbia Falls, and if he didn't take an extra day in Missoula...he would have been. Sula is a one building town, campground/general store/gas station/ restaurant. If you pass through here and need a place to camp, we highly recommend it. We're in Sula setting up for tomorrow morning's climb, which will be two passes, Lost Trail Pass (7040 ft.) and Chief Joseph Pass (7241 ft.)

North to South Tour - Day 21

07/15/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Missoula, Montana
To: Lolo, Montana
Today: 28 miles - 1119 miles total

Just for your information, it is only 14 miles from last night's hotel to this one.....if your not exploring Missoula. We started our day, rolling out of the hotel around 10 am. Our first stop was Adventure Cycling Organization, they supply our maps for this Great Parks tour. If you want to have an easier time bicycle touring, we recommend purchasing maps from Adventure Cycling. See the link on the right side of this page.

We had a polaroid taken (including SeeMore) by Teri in the front of the building. She offered us ice cream, water, water bottles, juice, and soda. A very nice lady. Then Gary asked if he could take a picture of SeeMore (because he look so unusual) for a chance to appear on the back cover of their magazine. It was done in black and white, so all my work shining SeeMore up in the morning (while the Rear Admiral slept in), was for naught! We talked to Phil (a fellow bicycle tourist) who was riding from Seattle to Ohio (his home) with very very little gear. He was "credit carding it", which means he was spending his nights in hotels along the way. While we were talking to him, SeeMore overheard the conversation about carrying very little...and promptly fell over, crushing the Rear Admiral's "pretty blue" helmet. We then talked to Richard (a fellow bicycle tourist from New Hampshire!) , who arrived just after us. He started in New Hampshire, and is riding to Oregon.

We then cycled all over Missoula. First finding a new helmet for the Rear Admiral. They didn't have a "pretty blue" helmet, so she got a black one. Now she looks like a biker babe! Then we cycled the bicycle paths to the University of Montana (see above photo) and explored as much of Missoula as we cared to( we even went shopping at the mall!). Missoula is a bicycle mecca. Bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, bicycle stores, bicycle racks on buses, and bicycles of all shapes and sizes being pedaled all over the city. With a population of 60,000, the University, and the love affair with the bike, this is a town that I could settle down in!

Tonight we are in Lolo, the next town over. We had a go slow day, and that's what we did. Saw bald eagles flying over our heads, and saw a herd of bison(see photo below). I just finished putting on a new front chain on SeeMore, hopefully my chain maintenance has improved since going down Sunwapta pass.

North to South Tour - Day 20

07/14/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Condon, Montana
To: Missoula, Montana
Today: 89 miles - 1091 miles total

Off to a pretty early start (around 7:30) after we ate oatmeal in the motel room . Today the first 50 miles was finishing up on Rte 83. This time most of the weekend travel was gone, but the logging trucks appeared in force. The Rear Admiral and I waved to as many trucks as possible. We don't know if it helps or not. It must be a lonely job at times, and we only hope that the truckers used their CB to report two crazy people on a weird looking orange bike riding along 83, to other truckers. We didn't have any problems, and we have found the logging trucks to be very kind. Still, riding on 83 with little to no shoulders is NOT fun. We passed many lakes (Summit, Rainy, Alva, Inez, Seeley, and Salmon) along with miles of forests and hints of mountains. This route goes primarily through National Forest land. If there was little traffic, I would ride 83 anytime. However, I can not recommend it. I don't know about 93 out of Kallispell, but maybe that would be a better alternative.

We had a picnic lunch at Salmon Lake state park, and the wind was BLOWING. It was too early in the day to quit, but we did have the option to camp here it was a great spot (we alway have the option!). Maybe we will come back and camp during another tour.

Once we turned onto Rte 200, we had 39 miles to Missoula, and a very strong headwind. Thank goodness it was down hill most of the way, but we pedaled all 39 miles....straight into the wind. Rte 200 was as busy as 83, but there was a wide shoulder. It was a very beautiful ride, maybe because I finally stopped looking at the road...and start looking around. You might think of me as weird, but I will take Rte 200 with headwinds ANYDAY over Rte 83!

We stopped for a rest break at the University of Montana's forestry camp. I talked with the young lady who was in charge of the kitchen, she was from North Conway, NH. SeeMore must have impressed her, because she gave us 2 cookie bars. They were sooooo good! She also let us fill our water bottles. THANKS. We meet so many nice people along the way.

We are tired, but living large in a hotel in Missoula. Tomorrow we will explore Missoula.

North to South Tour - Day 19

07/13/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Kalispell, Montana
To: Condon, Montana
Today: 62 miles - 1002 miles total

Not much to report about today. There are 3 basic routes from Kalispell to Missoula, Rte 93 which has a lot of traffic, not much scenery but wide shoulders. Rte 35, which goes down the east side Flathead lake, which has NO shoulders lots of traffic and you get a lake side ride (in other words, take your car). Rte 83, which is the road we are on, takes you through miles and miles of timber, follows Swan Lake, and is pretty popular traffic wise. With a shoulder of only about eight to ten inches, the riding took a lot of road concentration....there was to many vehicles passing SeeMore today! Since it is Sunday (we think), you get all the people returning home or starting their vacation. They are towing campers or boats or skidos or motor bikes or horse trailers or..... it would be a great ride, but it's not when the traffic is passing. Tomorrow being Monday (we think), we've been warned that the logging trucks will be on our road in full force. We have 80 plus miles more before Missoula.

The highlight of the day was spending a lazy afternoon at the Swan Lake state picnic area (see photo below). For 3 bucks we got a shaded table, with a view of the sparkling clean lake. We had a picnic, because that is what you do at a picnic area. We went into the water (just knee deep...it was cold!), and we took naps on the shore and enjoyed the noise of children behaving like they are on summer break.

We are here in Condon living large at the nice little hotel. I was the one to call it quits today, concentrating on a 8 inch patch of black top all day, can be tiring.

North to South Tour - Day 18

07/12/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Sprague Campground, Glacier NP Montana
To: Kalispell, Montana
Today: 61 miles - 940 miles total

For a change, we broke camp and cycled into West Glacier Village to have breakfast. It was a bone chilling beautiful ride, the last 10 miles of the Going to the Sun Road. Hardly a car passed us (either way) but if they did, you can bet they had their heater on full blast! I think it's wrong to leave the Glacier area without having something with huckleberries on it. So at the West Glacier restaurant, I ordered the pancakes, with fresh hot huckleberries syrup, while the Rear Admiral ordered her lumberjack special (eggs, pancakes, and bacon). Huckleberries taste like a mild blueberry, and I enjoyed my pancakes fully. When we got out of the restaurant, Lavern's Bike Friday was parked next to SeeMore (above photo) in the bicycle parking only space. However, we did not spot him until we were in Columbia Falls exploring the town.

The Adventure Cycling maps take you through back roads from West Glacier to Columbia Falls. They were very peaceful, but there was one section of gravel road (about 3 miles) that SeeMore didn't particularly like. We cycled into and around Columbia Falls looking for a tube for SeeMore's back tire, nothing. Yesterday, on the Going to the Sun Road we experienced a busted value, and had to replace the rear tube. I replaced the tube using the spare that we carry. We did not feel comfortable going all the way to Missoula (140 +/- miles) with just the tube patch kit. What if another value broke, a rare occurrence, but why take the risk? So we made a command decision to head into Kalispell, for a new tube. Navigating by the GPS we found our selves at a dead end by the old steel bridge. We needed to get across the Flathead river but it doesn't look like anyone is going to go over this bridge for another couple of years! Fortunately there was a little park/ boat launch where people were fishing and picnicing so we broke out our deli sandwich and had lunch before backtracking to the main route where we knew there was a working bridge (and alot of heavy traffic).

We are here in Kalispell with a new tube, living large at the EconoLodge. Kalispell is not for me. It is very busy, and it rubs me the wrong way. That's ok, I probably rub Kalispell the wrong way back! Mary likes the old downtown area. You can see many of the original buildings that were built in the late 1800's. Some times you enter a town or city, ride around in it to get the feel....and you find that it's not your cup of tea.

We are off route, and have some options to get back on route. We will see what happens next! That's what an adventure is all about!

North to South Tour - Day 17

07/11/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Rising Sun Campground, Glacier NP Montana
To: Sprague Campground, Glacier NP Montana
Today: 37 miles - 879 miles total

Perfect, Awestruck, Magnificent, Beautiful, Majestic, Magical, Amazing!

The Going to the Sun Road celebrates it's 75 birthday this year, and we were so blessed to be a part of it. From Rising Sun to Lake McDonald (east to west), the cycling today was surreal. An aroma of millions of Christmas trees, freshly snow covered mountain peaks (it snowed last night!), and blue skies filled our senses on overload. There was very little traffic going up in the morning. It was a steep 14 mile climb up to Logan's Pass (our third continental divide crossing on this trip), but it wasn't that bad at all. Maybe we were mesmerized by what surrounded us as we climb? We stopped 7 miles up (the first 7 miles are an easy climb) for a little admiral loo break. At the Little Admiral loo break we met up with Lavern, a gentleman we met in Skookumchuck B.C.. He is also doing the Great Parks tour, on a Bike Friday. He started in Jasper, and he will probably be in Colorado much faster than SeeMore....heck fire every bike is faster than SeeMore! It's been fun bumping in to him every once in a while .....back to the ride... we stopped just once more at Slyel Creek (for some Fig Newtons). The rest was one pedal at a time. We left Rising Sun at 7:45, and pulled into Logan's Pass visitor center at 10:30 (if your cycling, you need to be at Logan pass by 11!). Logan's Pass is 6,680 feet.

At the Logan's Pass visitor center we had a picnic lunch of PB&J sandwiches with Doritos, and watched a Bighorn Sheep scale the mountain across from the parking lot. Also.....Skiers were skiing down the slope behind the visitor center, then walking back up, and skiing down again. It was a cool 41 degrees at the pass, so we put on long pants, hats, and gloves and tried to stay out of the wind.

Then we started down down down. But we took our time, being on a bike you can pull over into little carved out niches and let the traffic go by. We only went a quarter mile down, before we took our first break and watched the mountain goats on the side of the road. I forgot to mention that Glacier now has shuttle buses, on the east side of Logan's Pass they are regular city size buses, but on the west side are smaller van type buses that are not as tall, (because of the many cliff overhangs, I 'm sure). Also there is a fleet of old 1930 red touring cars for hire. The Ford Motor company donated a pretty penny geting 30 +/- touring cars restored. You see a lot of these vehicles as you climb and go down the Going to the Sun Road, and they all wave at you! Photos? The Rear Admiral took many, many many photos, and even tried her luck making a few videos. We took more time going down, then going up! Photo break after photo break! As we passed the weeping wall, we got wet as the motorcyclists egged us on!

As we were waiting in line to go through the construction part (the park service has it's hand full keeping this road in repair!), the people in front of us got out of their car and noticed that SeeMore's back tire was flatter than a pancake. So we got out of line, went over to a little pull-out (with a spectacular view!) and fixed it. The valve stem was shot, so there was no way to patch the tubr, just got out a spare tube...and we were on our way (back into the next line going through construction). Construction was pretty long, and very muddy! During the road construction and afterwards, we kept going down down down, until we ended up at Lake McDonald. At the restaurant we ordered and devoured an apple carmel calzone (with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and a huge pile of whip cream). While fighting off each other's spoon, we planned what to do next. SeeMore and I were pretty tried, so it did not take too much convincing to end the day at the biker/hiker site at Sprague campground, which is located about a mile from the restaurant (and right on the lake!). There are some great sites here if you get in early enough.

SeeMore had a bath (we need one too, but there are no showers here!). The Prince of Wales II is up, the last two nights we BOTH have slept well. I think we will make that three in a row.